Disability: Medical Assessments

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 7th January 2019.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

What recent steps her Department has taken to improve the accuracy of medical assessments of disability for the purpose of claiming benefit.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Ensuring the quality and accuracy of the assessments undertaken by qualified healthcare assessment providers is a top priority. The Department is implementing a wide range of improvements, as communicated to the Work and Pensions Committee and many stakeholders. All our assessment providers’ claimant satisfaction reviews continue to exceed the minimum satisfaction level of 90%. Accuracy is improving year on year for both personal independence payment and work capability assessments, and the Department closely monitors performance, including through the independent audit of assessment reports.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

Some years ago, my constituent Robert Shafer was denied benefits after a Department for Work and Pensions medical assessment was deemed fit for purpose, despite its being contradicted by all other medical evidence and the medical examiner being sent for retraining. Robert Shafer’s case has never been resolved. When will Ministers accept that the whole medical assessment process is in itself not fit for purpose?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I am very sorry to hear about that individual case. I would of course be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to see what more we can do to help. The work capability assessment and PIP assessment process has been subject to a series of independent reviews, which we welcome, and we work vigorously to make sure that we make continuous improvements. For the vast majority of people, the processes work well.

Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People)

Just before Christmas, the Minister announced yet another review of disabled people being wrong denied vital social security, after 4,600 disabled people had their disability living allowance wrongly stopped and were deprived of PIP. It is the seventh review of its kind in the past year and provides yet another example of the devastating impact of the chaotic shambles at the heart of the DWP. Does the Minister agree that this latest review is the result of institutional indifference to the suffering of disabled people? Or is it simply the result of a Department in utter chaos?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Well, happy new year to the shadow Minister.

I utterly refute the idea that the Department for Work and Pensions and its staff, who work so hard, day in, day out—well, I will not even dignify those comments by repeating the allegations. The Department is there to make sure that people in our society get the benefits that they—[Interruption.] I am very happy to answer the question if the hon. Lady will refrain from chuntering so distractingly from sedentary position. We are utterly determined to make sure we have a benefits system that is compassionate, fair and fit for purpose. We are proceeding at pace to review the PIP claimant cases to make sure that people get all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes

I have a 31-year-old constituent who has the deteriorating condition cystic fibrosis. With lung function of less than 30%, he is now being assessed for a lung transplant. After a recent medical assessment, his PIP payments were stopped and he now has a 47-week wait for a tribunal date to appeal that medical assessment decision. Will the Minister meet me to discuss my constituent’s case?

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing up this case, and I will be very happy to meet her. It is really worth reflecting on the fact that, for the vast majority of people, PIP works well. Many more people are benefiting from PIP than they were under the legacy system, but one mistake is one too many and I will of course work with her.